Hey, must be the money. Or is it the winning, Miguel?

Since demanding a “change of scenery” last week, Miguel Tejada has backpedaled faster than a clown on a unicycle.

Tejada, the Orioles’ All-Star short stop who signed a six-year, $72-million contract before the 2004 season, publicly bemoaned the Orioles’ commitment to winning and improving last week. “I’ve done many things with this team and I haven’t seen results, and the other teams are getting stronger while the Orioles have not made any signings to strengthen the club,” Tejada said to the Associated Press.

In a tirade against the Orioles’ front office which has stood idly by while the Blue Jays and, to a lesser extent, the Red Sox have made waves in the division, Tejada hinted that maybe he would be better elsewhere. “I’ve been with the Orioles for two years and things haven’t gone in the direction that we were expecting,” he said. “So I think the best thing will be a change of scenery.”

At the time, this was construed as a backhanded trade demand. Tejada, unhappy with losing, wanted out. But as rumors swirled over the weekend that the Orioles were seriously investigating a trade and the Red Sox, Cubs, and even Mets came up as possible destinations for the short stop, Tejeda and his teammates have quickly reversed course. According to today’s Washington Post, Tejada’s new teammate, catcher Ramon Hernandez, said Tejada wishes to stay in Baltimore. Melvin Mora, the Orioles’ third baseman, had expressed similar sentiments a few days earlier.

While Tejada’s soap opera has been playing itself, another player on the Orioles is unhappy. This time, it’s their erstwhile catcher Javy Lopez who seems destined for the designated hitter spot now that Hernandez is joining the team. Lopez, the incumbent catcher who claims he wasn’t consulted before Baltimore landed Hernandez, is rightfully upset. He wants to catch, but instead he received a vote of no confidence from his employers. What’s going on with the Baltimore Orioles?

At this point, it looks doubtful that Tejada will be dealt, but this escapade highlights a few issues surrounding Miguel Tejada and the Orioles. I have to question Miguel Tejada’s commitment to winning. In 2003, it was a foregone conclusion that Miguel Tejada had, through his MVP season and all-around stellar playing, priced himself off of the Oakland A’s. During the winter of 2004, Tejada opted to sign with the Baltimore Orioles. At the time, the Orioles hadn’t won more than 74 games since 1999 and hadn’t finished above .500 since 1997. They had no plan, and they have yet to make an effort to develop one.

In my opinion, Tejada has no ground upon which to stand here. In 2004, any baseball fan, executive, agent, or writer could have told Tejada that the Orioles weren’t a team that could or would win. The Orioles, as they’ve been for years, were a team that would throw money at an All Star and hope for the best. Tejada bit, and he landed on a team with a two-headed, bipolar monster as a General Manager.

Now, two years later, he wants to win, but as one who has to be responsible for his own decisions, Tejada is stuck. He opted for money over winning, and so far, all it’s gotten him is money over winning and a fleeting month and a half in first place at the very start of 2005. Tejada made a commitment to the Orioles, and he should honor it. He had his chance to pick a winning team with a rosy outlook, and he didn’t. The Orioles aren’t obliged to trade Tejada and should keep him if they can’t find a trade partner willing to give up some value. Tejada now has to be a good teammate and has help his team win. P

Plus, that $12 million ain’t too shabby.

But on the other hand of this divide are the Baltimore Orioles. They are certainly not blameless here. First, they’ve upset their start short stop. If I give Miguel the benefit of the doubt, maybe the Orioles misled him. If they said they were going to try to compete by 2006 and Tejada signed on, then the Orioles haven’t really delivered on their promise. They haven’t landed any of their target free agents. They lost their All Star closer. They were engulfed in a steroid scandal in which Tejada was named, baselessly it seems, by a player once respected for his integrity and honesty. The Orioles, no matter how you spin it, have fallen off the tedious bandwagon they were once on.

Then, the Orioles showed how poorly they handle their players by insulting their catcher. To skip asking Lopez about the arrival of Hernandez shows poor judgment on behalf of the Baltimore front office. This is a team that needs to eke out every contribution it can from the 25 guys on the roster just to retain any semblance of competitiveness in the American League East. To insult one of their offensive cornerstones hardly wins them any points.

So now the Orioles are left with a disgruntled, but rich, short stop and a rightfully upset former catcher. They’ve sat by and watched the Blue Jays improve. With a young crop of Devil Rays on the way and little hope for Baltimore, Miguel Tejada, his $72 million, the Baltimore Orioles may soon be staring up at the rest of the American League East from that lonely fifth position in the division.

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